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'Alternative Nobel' winners receive awards in Stockholm

November 25, 2016

Four people and organizations have been awarded the 2016 Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm. The Turkish daily 'Cumhuriyet,' Syrian 'White Helmets,' an Egyptian feminist and a Russian human rights activist were honored.

Stockholm Right Livelihood Award Alternativer Nobelpreis für Weißhelme
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Sandberg

The 2016 Right Livelihood Award winners were recognized on Friday in Stockholm for carrying out their work in "the most difficult circumstances."

"Hailing from Syria, Egypt, Russia and Turkey, they have witnessed some of the most turbulent events in modern times," Jakob von Uexkull, the founder of the award often referred to as the "Alternative Nobel," said in opening remarks.

Q & A with Mozn Hassan

Raed al-Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense aid group also known as the White Helmets was on hand to accept the award on behalf of his organization. "Our greatest contribution has not been to save 73,000 lives but to bring hope where previously there was none," he said.

The White Helmets group is comprised of around 3,000 volunteers who operate in areas of Syria which lack emergency services to help rescue survivors from bombings and airstrikes.

Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina was also able to receive her award in person. She is the founder of the Civic Assistance Committee - an aid group which has offered legal help to over 50,000 refugees and migrants since 1990.

Gannushkina expressed great concern over the "anti-immigration" rhetoric from right-wing politicians around the world.

Award acceptance in absentia

Two award recipients were blocked from attending the ceremony in person by their home countries.

Egyptian feminist Mozn Hassan viewed the ceremony via video link as she is under a travel ban. She founded the organization Nazra for Feminist Studies in 2007. It has documented rights violations and campaigned against violence against women.

Hassan called the award "a recognition of a century of feminist activism." 

Zeynep Oral, a Turkish columnist, read out a statement on the behalf of Cumhuriyet Foundation chairman Orhan Erinc, who was barred from traveling from Turkey.

"The Right Livelihood award means that we are not alone in these difficult days dominated by aggression and violence."

"The only force that can defeat darkness, oppression, violence and non-existent justice is the unconditional defense of freedom and secularism," the statement read.

The award's organizers also called for Turkey to release 10 jailed Cumhuriyet staff members.

rs/jm (dpa, Right Livelihood Award)